RESIDENTS on our patch could be forgiven for not being aware of the anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which has quietly worked its way through the House of Commons over the last 12 months.
After a year of progress, the House of Lords on Wednesday voted 306 to 178 against the Bill, which will put it on the back-burner for a few months.
The legislation seeks to replace ASBOs, (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders), with IPNAs (Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance).
The original wording of the Bill, which might now be changed, read that an injunction could be served on anyone if: “The court is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, the respondent has engaged or threatens to engage in conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person.”
Critics of the Bill say the wording was so vague that it would have allowed pretty much anyone deemed to be acting “annoyingly” to be hauled up in court.
They feared carol singers, buskers, street preachers and, worryingly, legitimate political protesters could end up in the dock.
So in honour of the occasion, we asked Leader readers what they found most “annoying” and what they would outlaw should they have law-making powers.
Responses varied from the petty to the profound.
It turns out that, if local residents had their way, we’d all have an IPNA to our names.
Lucy Sian, 31, of Saltney, added: “I’d add people who sniff continuously on public transport to the list. Get a tissue!”
Grant Roberts, 29, of Wrexham, was cheerfully surreal, saying he'd outlaw “licking poisonous toads in stilettos”.
Daniel Davies, 39, of Wrexham quipped that he’d outlaw in-laws, while Martin Perry, 52, of Llangollen, said he found party politics annoying and would outlaw it.
Nicholas Bartlett, 48, of Wrexham, found people who couldn’t use roundabouts profoundly annoying, while Sarah Gaffney, 39, of Wrexham, would send people who spit in public to court.
Gemma Robbins of Wrexham messaged us on the Leader Facebook page to say she would ban “calls and texts from companies about PPI and insurance claims”.
Craig Jones of Wrexham also contacted us on Facebook to condemn “people who spend more than a minute at a cashpoint”.
Lewis Blackburn, 23, of Queenferry, said the voicing of uninformed opinions was a nuisance, and called for a ban.
He said: “Imagine the blissful logic!”
Peter Williams, 37, of Flint, said he’d use injunctions against “people who say ‘no offence, but...’ in a sentence.”
Robert Foulkes, 34, who shops in Saltney, said he would outlaw: “Shop assistants who like to comment on the stuff I have bought. Do I care if you like what I have just purchased? I feel like saying ‘actually I hate all this stuff in my trolley, the only reason I buy it is so I can burn it later’.”
In a more serious vein, Karen Cook, 43, of Mold, felt that people who used Chinese lanterns were a nuisance. She said: “The lanterns are death traps.”
Catherine Reeves, 29, of Hawarden, said: “I’d outlaw the sale of fireworks to the public. They are an absolute nightmare when you've got pets that are terrified of them. They should be only legal at organised displays and at given times!”
Adam Crump, 26, of Wrexham, said that abuse against people from different sub-cultures should be cause for legal action.
He said: “In some places, abuse towards goths or emos or anybody like that is now classed as a hate crime. I know from experience what abuse is like because I was bullied in school because I listened to bands like Slipknot and Linkin Park.”
Mandy Neal, 49, of Wrexham, classed smoking “anywhere at all except inside the smoker’s own home” as an annoyance.
She said: “I am sick and tired of smokers in the street blowing their smoke all over people. If I want to stink like them I'd smoke myself.
“Let them stink their own homes out and let the rest of us not have to smell their cigs.”
As tongue-in-cheek as this all is, there is a serious side to the issue and many people welcomed the House of Lords’ quashing of the controversial Bill.
Carol Evans, 41, of Wrexham, said: “I think this country should focus on enforcing the laws they have before looking for new ones.”
Elaine Lambert, 39, of Connah's Quay, said: “The bill is a waste of time and effort. If people are causing that much of a nuisance then an injunction is not going to make any difference to them. There are real criminals that need putting away first.”
In reality, it is unlikely anyone would be served an injunction for having a garden pond, writing ‘loose’ instead of ‘lose’, wearing Crocs or speaking in anything more than a low whisper at a library – some of the more colourful suggestions from Leader respondants.
IPNAs could only be issued through a number of public bodies, like councils, the police or Natural Resources Wales, which means cases would be filtered.
However, recent history suggests ridiculous injunctions are not outside the realm of possibility.
The ASBO system came in for criticism when Luke Davies 17, of Blaenavon, was ordered to to stay away from his front door until he was 21. He could use the back door, however.
In a similar vein, Zachary Tutin, 14, of north Manchester, was banned from using the word ‘Grass’ until 2010 after claiming his neighbours were police informers, while Stuart Hunt, 50, of of Drumnadrochit in Scotland, was given an ASBO for slow hand-clapping and ‘staring’.
Sara Ogilvie, Policy Officer for pressure group Liberty, said: “The House of Lords has once again stood against sloppy, chilling legislation.
“The Government’s definition of anti-social behaviour is breathtakingly broad.
“It could cover everyone from queue jumpers to noisy children. What kind of society endorses legal penalties for minor irritations?”
But despite the defeat on Wednesday, the Bill might have been delayed but the UK Government shows no signs of giving up on it.
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